The European Commission has accused Turkey of "serious backsliding" on democratic standards, the rule of law, human rights and judicial independence. Turkey’s application to join the EU has been in the deep freeze for several years. This report means it will stay there.
The heavy criticism is included in the Commission's annual report on Turkey's EU membership bid. The assessment also includes a rebuke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for referring to Palestinian militant group Hamas as a “liberation” movement. The EU, it said, was in “complete disagreement” with Turkey’s stance on Hamas.
In the report, released on November 9, the EU’s executive arm chastises Ankara for not complying with the principles of the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms in fights against adversaries Turkey has identified as terrorist. "Anti-terror measures need to be proportionate," the report said.
The report also pointed to unaddressed deficiencies in Turkey's judicial system.
"The lack of objective, merit-based, uniform, and pre-established criteria for recruiting and promoting judges and prosecutors remains a source of concern," the Commission said.
The Turkish foreign ministry described the report as “unjust and biased”. "We categorically reject unfounded claims and unjust criticisms, particularly on the political criteria and the Chapter on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights," it said in a statement.
Gender-based violence and hate speech against minorities and the LGBT community in Turkey remain a serious concern, the report also stated.
The launch of the formal process for Turkey's bid to join the EU took place as far back as in 2005, though the country's move towards Europe can be traced all the way back to September 1959 when it applied for associate membership of the European Economic Community (EEC). Ever since Erdogan launched his massive purge against opponents in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt against him, there has been no progress to speak of in moving Turkey towards EU accession.
The regime’s conduct in the May elections that saw Erdogan re-elected as president and retain control over parliament is also attacked in the Commission report.
While the elections “offered voters a choice between genuine political alternatives and voter participation remained high… biased media coverage and the lack of a level playing field gave an unjustified advantage to the incumbent”, observed the report.
It added: “Political pluralism [in Turkey] continued to be undermined by the targeting of opposition parties and individual members of parliament.”